Last week, Augsburg hosted 182 high school students from 55 foreign countries as they began their yearlong stays in the Midwest through AFS Intercultural Programs.
“We’re basically the first stop on their adventure,” says Jodi Collen, Director of Events & Conferences at Augsburg.
Most students flew from their home countries to Chicago and were then bused directly to Augsburg, where they checked in and stayed overnight in Urness Hall. The exchange students arrive in groups from Wednesday through Saturday. Their daylong orientation includes lessons in American currency, budgeting money, family life, technology, being an ambassador, and understanding the culture of American high schools. Minnesota high school students and AFS returnee volunteers join adult orientation leaders in preparing incoming students for their year in the US. Each of the three orientation days ends in Murphy Square where students meet their host families for the first time and go home to begin their exchange year.
“Our goal is to equip the students to understand some of the differences they will experience,” explained Deb Dahlberg, director of the Welcome Orientation program and AFS volunteer. “One-half of the host families are from the Twin Cities, and the other half are from Southern Minnesota, Northern Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota, and the border of Minnesota and Wisconsin.”
Augsburg was chosen as the host site for the orientation upon the recommendation
of art professor and AFS orientation leader, Tara Sweeney, whose children have been AFS exchange students. Upon volunteering at another venue for the orientation, Sweeney encouraged the planning team to consider switching its venue to Augsburg. This is the second year Augsburg has hosted the group.
Each year, more than 11,000 people worldwide participate in AFS programs, with approximately 2,500 students studying in American high schools. For information on hosting or sending a student, visit www.afs.org